Stanley Feld M.D. FACP, MACE
I am proud to be an American. Today we celebrate Independence Day and what it means to be free. It is worthwhile to review the meaning of the constitution.
An American celebrating July 4th in Santa Fe New Mexico in 2006
I am Including a link to an audio version of the constitution
a link to an unabridged version of the constitution
a link to a partially abridged version of the constitutiona
and a link to an abridged version that can be read below
|United States Constitution|
Page one of the original copy of the Constitution
|Created||September 17, 1787|
|Ratified||June 21, 1788|
|Signatories||39 of the 55 delegates|
|Purpose||To replace the Articles of Confederation (1777)|
|United States of America|
This article is part of the series:
United States Constitution
|Original text of the Constitution|
|Amendments to the Constitution|
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. The first three Articles of the Constitution establish the rules and separate powers of the three branches of the federal government: a legislature, the bicameral Congress; an executive branch led by the President; and a federal judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. The last four Articles frame the principle of federalism. The Tenth Amendment confirms its federal characteristics.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789. The first ten constitutional amendments ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1791 are known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution has been amended seventeen times (for a total of 27 amendments) and its principles are applied in courts of law by judicial review.
The Constitution guides American society in law and political culture. It is the oldest charter of supreme law in continuous use, and it influenced later international figures establishing national constitutions. Recent impulses for reform center on concerns for extending democracy and balancing the federal budget.
Articles of the Constitution
When it was written in 1787, the Constitution had a preamble and seven main parts, called articles.
The Preamble says:
The Preamble is not a law. It gives the reasons for writing the Constitution. The Preamble is one of the best known parts of the Constitution. The first three words, "We the people," are used very often. The six intentions that are listed are the goals of the constitution.
Article One: says that the U.S. Congress (the legislative branch) will make the laws for the United States. Congress has two parts, called "Houses," the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Article says who can be elected to each part of Congress, and how they are elected.
The House of Representatives has members elected by the people in each state. The number of members from each state depends on how many people live there. Each member of the House of Representatives is elected for two years. The Senate has two members, called Senators, for each state, no matter how many people live there. Each Senator is elected for six years. The original Constitution says that Senators should be elected by the state legislatures, but this was changed later by the seventeenth amendment.
Article One also says how the Congress will do its business and what kinds of laws it can make. It lists some kinds of laws the Congress and the states cannot make. Article One also makes rules for Congress to impeach and remove from office the President, Vice President, judges, and other government officers.
Article Two says that the President (the executive branch) will carry out the laws made by Congress. This article says how the President and Vice President are elected, and who can be elected to these offices. The President and Vice President are elected by a special Electoral College chosen by the states, for four years. The Vice President takes over as President if the President dies, or resigns, or is unable to serve. Article Two also says that the President is in charge of the army and navy. He can make treaties with other countries, but these must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate. He appoints judges, ambassadors, and other officers, but the Senate also must approve these appointments. The President can also veto bills. However, Congress can override the veto.
Article Three says there will be a court system (the judicial branch), including the Supreme Court. The article says that Congress can decide which courts, besides the Supreme Court, are needed. It says what kinds of "cases and controversies" these courts can decide. Article Three also requires trial by jury in all criminal cases, and defines the crime of treason.
States' powers and limits
Article Four is about the states. It says that all states must give "full faith and credit" to the laws of the other states. It also says that state governments must treat citizens of other states as fairly as they treat their own citizens, and must send arrested people back to another state if they have been charged with a crime.
Article Four also says that Congress can make new states. There were only 13 states in 1787. Now there are 50 United States. It says Congress can make rules for Federal property and can govern territories that have not yet been made into states. Article Four says the United States must make sure that each state has a republican form of government, and protect the states from invasion and violence.
Process of amendment
Article Five says how to amend, or change, the Constitution. Congress can write a change, if two-thirds of the members in each House agree. The state governments can call a convention to write changes, although this has not happened since 1787. Any change that is written by Congress or by a convention must be sent to the state legislatures or to state conventions for their approval. Congress decides whether to send a change to the legislatures or to conventions. Three-fourths of the states must approve a change for it to become part of the Constitution.
An amendment can change any part of the Constitution, except one — no amendment can change the rule that each state has equal suffrage (right to vote) in the Senate.
Article Six says that the Constitution, and the laws and treaties of the United States, are higher than any other laws. It also says that all federal and state officers must swear to "support" the Constitution.
Article Seven says that the new government under the Constitution would not start until conventions in at least nine states approved the Constitution.
Since 1787, Congress has written 33 amendments to change the Constitution, but the states have ratified only 27 of them.
The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights. They were made in 1791. All of these changes limited the power of the federal government. They were:
After the Bill of Rights, there are 17 more changes to the Constitution that were made at different times.
It is important to re-read this document written by our founding fathers. The U.S. Constitution is meant to protect Americans freedoms on this symbolic day of freedom.
Americans call this day Independence Day.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone
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